Sometimes I forget that I am the leader of this unit. That these tiny faces, the ones that look just like my own, are actually expecting me to set the tone, to explain the rules, to lead them through each and every day. Even when I'm tired out. Or hungry. Or just plain spent.
That's been happening more often lately.
In fact, we've all had a bit of an attitude problem. A whining, fighting, foot stamping, "Fine then!", "I Said Stop It!" attitude problem.
So we took it outside.
The simplest way to find more peace in my house was to spend more time out of it. It's so simple. It's so obvious (not to mention well researched). And SO effective.
The kids have become a band of bike riders. We live on a tiny private drive that winds around for a mile or so, through fields and houses, fences and ponds. And once you get about half a mile from our place, you'll find horses. Borrowing from our still impressive supply of rainbow carrots from the garden, our bike riders become horse feeders.
It was rocky at first. There was whining. About the pedals. About the brakes. "I'm tipping!" George shrieked. "It's too hard," they all moaned. "I can't do it!" But with a bunch of practice, and even more patience, everyone is now a pretty solid rider or scooter.
The CDC says kids need 60 minutes of physical activity per day. That eating healthy food isn't enough to produce healthy kids. Our rascals probably get that amount of movement organically, just running around. But when we started doing a Big Thing, I noticed a difference.
Three rascals ride bikes while the little one glides in a double stroller big enough to offer rest for anyone in need. It's also a cart for a weary athlete's discarded bike. A support vehicle. Like the Tour de France. Only miniature, and domestic. Tour de Neighborhood.
(Safety notes: The kids usually wear helmets then take them off upon arrival. Because, sweaty. These are snapshots from different days. And the carrots are too big to hold flat in the palms of their hands.)
It's so fun. And it's SO TIRING. Good for the kids, and you know what? Good for me too.
With all the excess energy spent, you can practically see the crankiness wafting up and away. Theirs and mine. There it goes, away from my house. I mean, they still get mad at each other. George still cries the moment his foot gets stuck in a stubborn sock (Either going on, or off. Doesn't matter. Tears.) But less. They do it less.
This makes me less stressed out. Instead of getting caught up in the raw emotions of "She said she wouldn't be my friend anymore!" I get to spend a little more time coaching kids on the art of feeding carrots to a horse.
Bedtime, which can be a drudge match, pitting kids versus adults to see who would lose it first, is calmer. They're tired, so you have to move quickly. Bath, brushing teeth, reading books, one last potty, prayers and lights out.
Then it's done. No one is popping up and out into the hallway. Sisters aren't shouting at each other under pink quilts. They still take a few minutes to settle in. But then they sleep. Faster. Easier. They sleep!
Like The New York Times reported earlier this summer, walking in nature changes the brain. I'd add, for the better.
And because of that, I'm a better leader.
Charity Curley Mathews is the founder of Foodlets.com: Real Food for Babies, Toddlers & Kids.